ST. PAUL, Minn. She's gonna make it after all.
Considering the location of the Republican convention, the theme song had already been written for the Sarah Palin campaign. It comes from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," based in the Twin Cities.
"Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? Well, it's you, girl, and you should know it; with each glance and every little movement, you show it. Love is all around, no need to waste it. You can have a town, why don't you take it? You're gonna make it after all."
With the announcement of Palin as John McCain's running mate, the Republican Party transformed overnight from a lackluster, demoralized group of people largely willing to vote for McCain out of a lack of alternatives, to an eager population ready to donate their time, money and expertise. All of a sudden, people who felt like they didn't have a stake in the election became enthusiastically engaged. At one pro-life event here, a woman announced, "I'm really voting for Palin, not McCain." There's something about Palin that connects with and comforts members of the right, while threatening those on the left.
In the days after McCain's pick became public, we saw left-wing blogs write the most ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims about Palin and her family. These digital scandalmongers even won a victory of sorts, forcing the Palin family to announce, via the McCain campaign, the pregnancy of its unwed, teenage daughter. The left evinced no small amount of satisfaction that they had smoked out a family matter. As lurid, tabloid-ready stories issued forth, conservatives both rushed to defend Palin and got a little nervous. Had she been vetted properly? Could there be other, more dire skeletons lurking?
Creeping dread began to dampen the initial enthusiasm for the Alaskan governor. There were too many growing distractions, perhaps the biggest being the question of experience. McCain had previously said a vice president should be ready to assume the presidency from the get-go. Doubt and uncertainty grew. But then she spoke. Not only did she demonstrate a depth of moral character, but she also showed an adeptness on policy, both foreign and domestic. But most importantly, she exhibited a love of country, and a respect and support for military service. She came off as an everywoman. A mom who wanted to do her part at home and in the world, an instinct that led her into politics and ultimately onto the podium of the Xcel Center with McCain.
So, by the time she wrapped up her acceptance speech, all skepticism had vanished, and the dominant reaction appears to be happiness and relief at McCain's sagacious choice. And for once, skeptics can't cry tokenism. Commentators who compare Palin to George Bush's gender-based, experience-blind pick for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, couldn't be more off base.
Part of Palin's attractiveness to McCain may have been her lack of a Y chromosome, but she's got it all, including the fighting spirit one needs to cross swords with a self-proclaimed scrapper, Joe Biden. She has the compassion needed to inspire people, evidenced in her embrace of her beautiful son, born with Down syndrome, and her unwavering support of her hard-pressed daughter. Putting a play on an Obama phrase, conservatives have been telling me, "She is the one we have been waiting for." Comparisons to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are flying. All a tad premature, but it's a good thing just the same.
What excites conservatives about Palin angers the left. She's an attractive ("The hottest governor from the coolest state," one pin making the convention-hall rounds announced) conservative, pro-life, happy warrior who won't play victim even when she and her family are attacked by a supposedly objective media. She threatens a dying feminist movement that thrives on victimization. With a gun in hand, ready to make moose stew, Palin's not their kinda' girl. And that's exactly the way it should be.